Today on Favorites Friday, I am excited to welcome back author Varina Denman to the blog! Varina will always be a favorite around here – her debut novel Jaded was the first book review I posted here and both Jaded and Justified made my list of Top Ten Books I’ve read so far in 2015. Her smooth writing voice seamlessly and uniquely switches from first person to third to allow differing POVs throughout the story, and her characters reach out and pull you into the scenes alongside them. The plots of both books resonate with themes of love, redemption, and restoration. I interviewed Varina just after Jaded was released – and I’ve totally forgiven her for not answering my UT question correctly 🙂 – so I was thrilled when she agreed to stop by and talk about Justified today! She’s also offered to give away a signed copy of Justified to one lucky reader; keep reading to find out all the details!
Me: Welcome back, Varina! I always love chatting with you!! Since you’ve already answered my usual “Fast Four” questions, I mixed it up a bit. I promise not to ask any University of Tennessee questions this time. (GO VOLS!)
Favorite color? Why?
Varina: My favorite color depends on my mood. Usually it’s medium blue–because it’s peaceful and tranquil. But sometimes it’s red–because it’s bold. And when I’m feeling sweet (which doesn’t happen very often), then it’s pale pink. I guess I’m a living mood ring.
Me: Hahaha! Favorite movie? Why?
Varina: That’s a hard one because I’m a sucker for a good romance, and there are tons of great movies out there. But if I had to choose one, I’d probably say, “Pride and Prejudice” (The one with Jennifer Uhle and Colin Firth) because the romance is to-die-for. Close runners-up would be “While You Were Sleeping” and “Last of the Mohicans.”
Me: I know this is going to sound sacrilegious to some… but I’ve never made it all the way through the Colin Firth version of P&P. I really should one of these days. And bonus points for “While You Were Sleeping” – one of my faves! I can quote that entire movie. Lest I get started doing that very thing, I am going to quickly ask the next question.
Favorite song? Why?
Varina: This is a mood thing too, but at the moment, my favorite song is “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, because it makes me want to sing really loudly and be happy.
Me: I have never heard of that song before you mentioned it. To the Google!
While I’m grooving to this song… What’s your favorite snack food? And of course, why?
Varina: THIS is easy. Frozen banana/strawberry/chocolate/peanut butter smoothie, sprinkled with granola. I’m addicted. I have ridiculous food restrictions (who doesn’t these days?), and this smoothie is an indulgence that I won’t regret later.
Me: mmmm That sounds yummy!! Tell us what’s on your writing desk right now?
Varina: I just turned in Jilted, book 3 in the Mended Hearts series, and I am SO RELIEVED. I’ve been looking forward to resting, but I’m not good at it. Already, I’m thinking about a new series, but the ideas are still bumbling around in my head and haven’t made it to my desk yet. I’m fairly sure I’ll stick with a small town setting, though, just because that’s so much fun to write.
Me: I’m SO EXCITED about Jilted, though I will be sad to say goodbye to the Mended Hearts crew. The anticipation of a new series from you – especially if it’s in another small town setting – considerably helps offset the sadness. Your stories, your themes, always strike a chord in my heart. What inspires your writing?
Varina: Real life. Mine and others. Things happen in this world that make me sad, but when I write about similar circumstances, I’m able to create happy endings. I pray that my stories encourage others who struggle with the real world.
Me: They encourage me! I love that thought too – being able to create happy endings for things that make us sad. I think that’s why I love reading fiction so much. And I’ve said so often (maybe not here on the blog, but just ask my family and Facebook friends lol) that all stories have their roots in THE story – the one that God has been writing since He created time. And if there’s anyone that makes happy endings out of sad things, it’s God! Along those lines, what has God been teaching you lately?
Varina: Oh, my goodness. He’s been teaching me patience and compassion, but apparently I’m not a very good student. He keeps repeating the same lessons over and over again.
Me: I hear that! It reminds me of my friends from China who try so patiently to teach me a word in their language. I say it back, thinking I’ve perfected it after one try. (Silly me.) Instead of applauding my success (as I expected them to), they keep repeating the word. And repeating the word. And repeating the word. And repeating the word some more. Lol. God does that to me too – not with Chinese words (praise Him!) but with life lessons.
Shifting gears a bit – who was your favorite character in Justified? And did any characters take on a life of their own?
Varina: JohnScott would have to be my favorite. He turned-out to be such a homegrown country boy–good to the core–there wasn’t much to dislike. I’ll always have a soft spot for Fawn, though. I can relate to her insecurity all too well, and I was glad she could eventually grow and trust God. Tyler surprised me by taking on a life of his own. I originally intended for him to be more of a background character, but once he started messing with Fawn, he got really, really creepy.
Me: Indeed he did! Tyler needed a good purse whomping! I adore John Scott – such a sweetheart!! And Fawn surprised me. I disliked her during Jaded, but she became one of my favorite characters across both books by the end of Justified.
What do you most want readers to take away from your books?
Varina: Hope. I’m a pessimist at heart, and writing helps me to see the good in life, the good in God’s plan, and the good in other people. I pray my stories give readers the same positive feelings.
Me: Oh I love that. We need more hope so desperately in this world today. Thank you for being one of those authors who extends it through your grace-filled writing.
Speaking of “more” (yeah, yeah, it’s a stretch, I know), what are you working on next?
Varina: Right now I’m trying to decide if I should write more stories about Trapp, Texas, or create another fictitious town. Either way, I’ll probably write another series, but at the moment, the possibilities are endless.
Me: As long as you WRITE MORE BOOKS, I will be happy 🙂
Thank you so much for chatting with us again! We love having you whenever you want to stop by 🙂
Varina: Carrie, thank you so much for inviting me back to your blog. It’s been super fun again!
GIVEAWAY!!!: Varina Denman has graciously offered to give a signed copy of Justified to one lucky reader! (US only)
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post about the interview or Varina’s books. For extra entries, follow my blog (readingismysuperpower) and/or share this giveaway on social media (facebook/twitter/Pinterest/etc). **Make sure you let me know in another comment what you did to qualify for extra entries!** (You can follow my blog by entering your email address in the box in the top left of this page or by clicking “follow” with your wordpress or twitter accounts.) Winner will be chosen by Random.org on Saturday August 1st after 10pm EST and notified by email. If I don’t hear from you within a week, a new winner will be chosen.
Varina Denman enjoys writing stories about the unique struggles women face. She volunteers in her local home school cooperative where she teaches creative writing and literature. Varina resides in North Texas with her husband, five mostly-grown children, and a Pomeranian. This is her second novel in the Mended Hearts series. You can connect with Varina at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.